Serbian-born Viktor Bijelovic moved to London at age eleven and studied music at the Purcell School of Music and then at the Royal Academy of Music. The album's biographical notes do not give a date of birth (I would guess he's still in his twenties judging by the cover photo) but mention that he has won several international competitions without specifying which ones. From the evidence here, I would say Bijelovic is a talented pianist who may well develop an important international career.
His Beethoven Appassionata Sonata is very well played and may be the best performance on the disc. With judicious tempos, a wide and deftly employed range of dynamics, strong technique and intelligent phrasing, Bijelovic delivers a dramatic and convincing account of this warhorse. He may not offer anything revelatory, but you certainly can't fault his performance in any serious way. Perhaps the finale is a little mechanical at times, but his version overall can stand with many of the better recorded renditions of this work.
The Gluck/Sgambati Melody is revealed as a lovely piece here, the performance just fine. The Chopin Ballade #1 and C-sharp minor Nocturne are also good efforts, though I wouldn't elevate them to outstanding status.
The Debussy Claire de Lune and Rachmaninov G minor Prelude, while convincing in many ways are a little stiff in places. Moreover, the Debussy is a tad slow, and the Rachmaninov features some questionable rubato. The Liszt 2nd Hungarian Rhapsody can be a tricky piece to bring off. Bijelovic acquits himself reasonably well, though in the latter half his dynamics occasionally come across as finicky or sometimes a bit wooden. He does, however, brilliantly convey the humor and colorful folkish character of the piece and seems to have much fun in the process. The latter minute or two veers away from Liszt's original score, offering a cadenza-like passage that is apparently of the pianist's devising. Liszt encouraged precisely this kind of thing in performance of this Rhapsody.
The sound reproduction is clear but a little shrill, perhaps owing to the slightly glassy tone of the piano. I should mention that Bijelovic makes introductory remarks on track one about the music. Some listeners may find his deep voice and friendly manner a refreshing touch. In sum this is a good, if sometimes uneven recital.
Copyright © 2013, Robert Cummings